Nissan moves the wrong direction in England

Lindsay Chappell is the Mid-South bureau chief for Automotive NewsLindsay Chappell is the Mid-South bureau chief for Automotive News
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It is a troubling sign from Nissan Motor Co. that it intends to raise the sticker price of its barely launched electric Leaf in England by 2,000 pounds -- or about $3,200.

The comfortable wisdom on electric cars has been that prices will fall – not rise.

Comments from electric vehicle proponents – including Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn – have assured consumers, dealers, suppliers and other industry players that EV technology will follow the path of personal computers.

They will start out with cool-new-toy premium pricing -- the family sedan retails for more than $33,000 in the United States. But like laptops and cellphones and MP3 players, prices will tumble as mass production rises.

Or so they said.

At least in the U.S. market, the Leaf launch has been a precisely controlled phenomenon. Some very eager consumers are complaining about not receiving their cars soon enough, and Nissan's Japanese plant has been slow to reach volume.

But for the most part, Nissan has stuck to its guns on deliveries, pricing, customer support, market roll-out and all the rest.

So how can it be so far wrong on its European sticker prices?

It provokes a question: Is Nissan serious about fostering a worldwide electric-vehicle market, now that consumers are finally lining up? Is Nissan serious about putting electrics into the garages of average folks in cities around the world? Is Nissan really going to fan the market and help bring down manufacturing and technology costs to the point that electric cars are truly price-compatible with gasoline cars?

Or is Nissan going to begin taking advantage of its initial tight supply-and-demand situation and push the Leaf into near-luxury pricing, thereby turning it into an interesting alternative car for a small, more affluent demographic rather than a realistic alternative for the masses?

You can reach Lindsay Chappell at lchappell@crain.com.

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